Latasha “Tash” Haynes knows firsthand how important it is to get an annual flu vaccine.
Three years ago, the professional photographer, who lives with her family in Tacoma, WA, was healthy, active and busy. She traveled the world for her photography business and loved to volunteer through educational programs for women.
But in January, she started to feel sick. She thought she caught a cold or virus from a family member and figured she’d feel better soon. But weeks passed and her symptoms, including a cough, loss of appetite, and exhaustion, got worse.
By the middle of February, she couldn’t get out of bed. She knew she needed to see a doctor right away. A doctor at the urgent care tested her for strep throat but the test was negative. She was sent home with pain relief medicine.
Over the next week, Haynes’ condition didn’t improve. That week she made two visits to the emergency room. Each time, doctors told her that her body had high inflammation levels, most likely from a virus. They gave her fluids and sent her home to rest.
The next day, Haynes experienced labored breathing and pain all over her body. She returned to the hospital where doctors told her she had something wrong with her heart. They needed to run tests to find the problem.
This time they admitted her to the hospital, where her condition was very serious. Her blood pressure was dangerously low and her heart rate was elevated.
Haynes tested positive for the flu and doctors diagnosed her with pneumonia and congestive heart failure caused by myocarditis and pericarditis, brought on by the flu virus. She received two blood transfusions over the course of four days. Initially near death, she slowly improved. In total, she was in the hospital for 16 days, including six spent in critical care.
Following her two month battle with the flu, Haynes regained her previous health. But some issues from her flu diagnosis remain, such as arthritis.
Every year, 5-20 percent of the U.S. population is infected with flu. A person infected with the flu virus will typically suffer from the illness for approximately seven to 10 days. The highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract — the lungs, nose, and throat — can be severe and lead to secondary complications.
Typically, people with the flu experience symptoms like, dry cough, fever, headache, extreme tiredness, muscle aches, sore throat, and other symptoms.
The virus can cause complications such as in Haynes’ case. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says every year upwards of 61,000 Americans die from the flu, including over 100 children, and flu-related hospitalizations range from 140,000–810,000.
Flu vaccines have been proven to be safe and cannot cause the flu. Still, the CDC reports generally less than half of U.S. adults and less than 65 percent of kids receive a flu vaccination each year.
Getting a flu vaccine can protect individuals and the community. The more people get vaccinated, the less chance that flu can spread to others.
These days, Haynes is an advocate with Families Fighting Flu (FFF), a national nonprofit advocacy organization that’s dedicated to protecting children, families, and communities against the flu. The women’s health advocate encourages men, women, and children older than six months to get an annual flu vaccination, the best preventive measure against influenza.
She’s back to her busy lifestyle but always makes her health a priority, including getting a flu vaccine.